University of Cambridge > > Chemistry > Intensified-Process Integration at All Scales – flow reactor networks and end-to-end intensified chemical plants

Intensified-Process Integration at All Scales – flow reactor networks and end-to-end intensified chemical plants

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Flow Chemistry provides chemical intensification. Novel Process Windows achieve the latter through exploration of unusual and typically harsh process conditions with much enhanced activation and also chance for different selectivity pattern. A survey based on several own-developed flow chemistries will underpin the boost of reactivity via high-T, high-p, high-c (solvent-free; alternative solvent) concepts. Moreover, photo-catalytic micro-flow synthesis is on the way of giving a large push to that kind of processing and some own examples will be referenced. Yet, the big chance is to make the chemistry entirely different. Two major ways will be reported: (i) flow cascades which shrink multi-step syntheses together; (i) direct green pathways from inactive, non-functionalized resource materials (C-H activation, N fixation, CO2 utilization).

This will be majorly exemplified at two examples. First, an LCA / green metrics study gives insight into the greenness of a micro-flow multi-step synthesis of rufinamide, an antiepileptic drug to treat the Lennox–Gastaut syndrome. After chemical intensification concepts were settled, those and hypothetical opportunities for intensification were tested on their impact on environmental friendliness. This involves opportunity-impact analysis for the full retrosynthetic process chain down to nitrobenzene as bulk chemical. The ecological backpack of three different retrosynthetic process chains is demonstrated. For the first time, three different microreactor networks are compared for their LCA profile. This will give answer to the question if such networks are “just” multiple retrofit insertions or provide a path to end-to-end process design.

The second example is even more radical towards end-to-end process design. The motto ‘Chemergy’ stands for the unanimously forecasted “Electrification of the Chemi-cal Industry” through sustainable energy sources. Several European roadmaps pro-claim that change, e.g. Dechema discussion paper (of same name), ISPT Topsector Energie: ‘Power2Products’, Enquete Commission “Future of the Chemical Industry in NRW ”, and TKI ’s 2015 Technology Roadmap “Making Sustainable Chemical Products”. This reintro¬duction of “electrons in the chemical industry” is seen as contri-bution towards a circular economy. Along these lines, the plasma-catalytic processing was applied for nitrogen fixation using air (N2) to manufacture NO/NO2 which finally is converted to nitric acid and fertilizers. The business model hereabout is tightly con-nected to green renewable energy sources and mobile, compact container production platforms. Both together enable to utilize the power of wind/solar/biomass sources at the distributed sites of the electricity for manufacturing a chemical product (nitric acid). That might be directly further upgraded to a fertilizer (or urea etc.) to achieve a higher value-added product. Proof of principle, cost & LCA studies will be shown.

This talk is part of the Chemistry series.

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